One of my favourite rides at amusement parks as a child was the merry-go-round. I loved being able to pick a different horse every time the ride had finished.
Occasionally I had to compete with other children for the horse I wanted, but even if I missed out, there were still plenty of different ones to select.
A-League transfers each year resemble a merry-go-round. It’s a problem that has plagued clubs for years.
Eyebrows were raised across the country this week, when the talented Joshua Brillante announced he was signing with Melbourne Victory for the upcoming 2021-22 season.
This is the same Brillante who previously played for cross-town enemy Melbourne City, interstate rivals Sydney FC as well as the Newcastle Jets and the defunct Gold Coast United. At 28 years of age, this will be Brillante’s fifth A-League club.
Long gone are the days of being loyal and spending the majority of your career at one club.
The A-League is quite a small salary-capped league and that could be the issue to find players signing for three to four years like their counterparts in Europe. One to two years appears to be the standard contract length for a player in Australia.
It is extremely hard to get invested in a player you enjoy watching, because by season’s end they could potentially be moving on to a different club.
This could go a long way in explaining why fans of A-League clubs seem reluctant to put a player’s name and number on the back of a purchased jersey.
Why would you spend $150.00 on an official jersey including numbering to find it redundant when the player likely leaves in 12 months’ time?
Recycling of players is a systematic issue that has affected every club, with the only exception being Sydney FC.
The largest club in Australia has consistently been able to buck this trend, signing players on longer term deals.
Sydney consistently uses the full salary cap each year and they are one of the only clubs able to top up their squad with marquee players due to how strong they are financially.
Sydney has the best administrators in the game and they are regularly able to take advantage of the changing loopholes within the salary cap.
The concession they benefit from the most is loyalty player payments followed by home-grown talent, with both being exempt from the salary cap.
Not every club has the financial backing like Sydney though and most will be lucky to have one player stay for three years. By comparison Sydney FC have several players currently that have been together for multiple seasons.
Joshua Brillante isn’t the only one club-hopping around Australia. The league already has many players with multiple clubs.
The 31-year-old Anthony Golec and the soon-to-be 40-year-old Liam Reddy are currently tied in first place. In a 12-team competition they have both played for more than half the teams, representing a whopping seven clubs each.
There is a young player who is quickly closing in on that record though: 24-year-old Mariners centre back Ruon Tongyik, who in his short career has already worn the shirt of five different clubs in the A-League.
There will be plenty more transfer movements in the coming months. Teams will be waiting for the merry-go-round to finish so they can select a player.
For the ones that initially miss out on a club, all they have to do is get back on a different horse, because the carousel of A-League players never stops in the off-season.